Dear Auntie Ora,

I've heard that the sisters are doing it for themselves. Does this mean that no-one was doing it for them?


"Sibyl, don't make me do this."

"I'm sorry, Pythia, but it comes with the job. You've been in many hazardous situations before."

"Yes, but Sibyl -- "

"Facing down wild animals and dangerous criminals. Climbing treacherous mountain passes, fording piranha infested rivers, hailing a cab in Times Square at midday..."

"But Sibyl, this is different. This isn't something you can defeat with a machete, or a Colt .45, or large amounts of money... this is.. ineffable! A dark, looming danger, that peers straight into your soul and rips away the precious fictions you've built to let you live day to day, exposing your weakness and frailty to the harsh light of day and then exploiting them to crush you utterly! Sibyl, these are NUNS, dammit! They go for the jugular!"

"Pythia, dear, you're over-reacting. "

"You wouldn't say I was over-reacting if you'd gone to an all-girls school."

"I did go to public school. We had nuns. Most of them were very pleasant."

"Anglican nuns! These are CATHOLICS, Sibyl! There's no comparison! It's like comparing the Prince of Darkness to a mosquito."

"If you could just see yourself, dear. Now Pythia - the customer seemed very concerned that the sisters were doing it for themselves. He didn't specify what 'it' was, but it would seem to be some heavy labour that such elderly ladies aren't suited for."

"Ha! These women chew broken bottles and wear barbed wire next to the skin. I'm sure there's nothing short of a full-scale strip mining operation that they'd find daunting. You think I learned my survival skills in the Outback? Bollocks, I learned them in Sister Mary Theresa's catechism class. The woman used to rend grizzly bears limb from limb with her bare hands."

"Think of it this way - you're having a day off from Mr. Sanditon."

"I'd almost prefer playing housemaid for the little squig. And I know when this ordeal is over, I'll go back there and find he's uprooted all the roses and pooped in the armoire."

"Now where is that girl? CASSIE! Hurry up, we'll be late meeting the Mother Superior!"

"What the hell is this place, again?"

"Our Lady of Perpetual Perpetuity. CASSIE!"

"Okay, okay, I'm coming! Hold your horses!"

"Oh my God!"

"Hiya! You like?"

"Dear Lord, Cassie, you're a dead woman."

"Huh?"

"Pythia's having a little crisis of confidence. Cassandra, dear - what is - rather - your outfit is -"

"What the hell is that?"

"It's a nun's habit! I picked it out this morning. Pretty cool, huh?"

"Nun's habit? Right, maybe in a Czechoslovakian porno. Cripes, Cassie, they'll eat you alive!"

"Like, you think the wimple's too much?"

"It's the only thing about that outfit that there's too much of!"

"Cassie dear, I don't think that nuns generally wear platform shoes."

"Yeah, and most habits aren't backless, either."

"But it's so cute!"

"Well, never mind. Throw a sweater over yourself, we haven't time to change. Come on, now, don't complain - Pythia, let go of the file cabinet, that's a good girl..."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A short time later, representatives of Delphic Research, Inc. arrived at the Our Lady of Perpetual Perpetuity Convent. It took the combined strength of Sibyl and Cassie to haul Pythia out of the car, and only through firm direction were they able to guide her through the convent to the Mother Superior's office where they removed most of the restraints. Pythia's demeanor as they waited for the Mother Superior to arrive was like that of a tiger in a leg hold trap - that is, about five minutes from chewing her own leg off to escape.

"Wow, this place is so quiet, and... musty! It's like a church!"

"And why do you suppose that is, Cassie?"

"Um... because the nuns don't vacuum very often?"

"Right! That's what they're doing for themselves. Let's go!"

"Pythia, sit down!"

"Cripes."

"You are fidgety, dear. Everything will be fine. I'll do all the talking."

"I feel like a bloody nine-year-old again. It's just like I've been called into Sister Mary Theresa's office, and you're sitting there waiting... and dreading... and then just when you're lost in your dark little knot of fear, there she is right behind --"

"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, ladies, I -
    It is good to see you again ... Miss Stefano!"

"YEEEARG!! Sister Mary Theresa! I ! Er! Haba!"

"Oh you two know one another?"

"Indeed. Miss Stefano was in my English Studies class. Several years, wasn't it, Pythia?"

"Hiba! Ah ah..."

"I see you still have that little stuttering problem. You continue to lack any measure of self-discipline. You realize that a stronger girl would have beaten it by now."

"*whimper*"

"Sit-up straight, Miss Stefano, you are slouching."

"*urk*"

"Well, this is certainly brings back a number of memories. Ms. Stojay, I believe you had some enquires?"

"Yes... I understand that the sisters are doing it for themselves."

"Indeed."

"No one to do it for them?"

"Not since the incident with the bleach."

"Bleach?"

"Ms. Stojay, do you have any idea what happens when an incompetent launderer bleaches several loads of blue and white habits? You get what I believe the youth call 'tie-dye'."

"Oh cool! So you're like, hippie nuns?"

Sister Mary Teresa paused. She turned her head slightly and transfixed Cassidy with her steely gaze. In very careful, measured tones she simply stated, "I assure you, we are not."

"Eep!"

"Ever since that unfortunate incident we have been doing our own laundry."

"I see. Well, we had a gentleman who was very concerned that --"

"Yes, a Mr. Walling. He was the incompetent I spoke of. I see that he is still trying to win back our business - the nerve of him!"

"Well, Sister Mary Theresa... I'm sure we can find some way to help you out..."

~~~~~

Dear Mr. Walling,

The sisters most assuredly are doing it for themselves - and they seem very content with the situation, I'm afraid. Sister Mary Theresa has requested that Cassie assist them on alternate weeks, and to wear a more sensible attire.

Kindly find attached the invoice for services rendered. Please feel free to direct any questions regarding it - particularly item six, two bottles of Dewar's Scotch Whiskey - to Pythia DiStefano. I believe she may wish to discuss it with you in detail.

Yours,
Sibyl Stojay
Delphic Research, Inc.